Thursday, August 04, 2011

So Maybe We'll Start Right Here: Why I Believe Designing & Making Handbags is My "Calling"

Seven years ago, I was faced with a rather difficult diagnosis after losing 1/3 of the sight in my right eye: Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus. I'd been in and out of doctor's appointments all over town, and even down to Duke University to their Eye Center and evaluated by an excellent Opthamologist and also a Rheumatologist there. The vision loss made it difficult to continue to work in counted cross stitch which had been my "drug of choice" in the craft world for many years. I still happen upon those uncompleted projects every so often and sigh wistfully. (Since then the diagnosis has changed a mite, to one not quite so serious - whew!)

At the time, tho', hand-sewn fabric bags were all the rage, and one afternoon, I dropped into a quilting shop on my way home from work to discover a delightful cat fabric which I promptly purchased, along with a pattern and a couple of coordinating prints. I'm afraid I fell apart (sort of) at the store, in discussing why I was suddenly venturing into a fabric shop after years of denying my sewing abilities, but as a result the owner and I have become well acquainted, and I trust her eye as well as my own when it comes to fabric selections! She's an excellent resource I would never have met without this sad time in my life...I'm terribly grateful that I'm so wealthy in friends.

But I digress...For years, my sister and I had been looking for the "perfect pocketbook" which would keep us organized and pulled together, but after numerous disappointments, I became convinced such a bag was nonexistent. The possibility of making one hadn't occurred to me before, but the pattern I picked up that day I ended up being totally disenchanted with, because, once again, it just wasn't what I wanted in a bag. Still, a seed was planted in my mind. Over the next couple of days, I worked away on designs and finally created the very first "Nana Sadie Rose" bag: what has become known as my Mera bag (named for my daughter). I carried the prototype to a friend's Fourth of July picnic and was begged to make more for the women present. I carried it to my vet, and she begged for one just like mine (and she has the only EXACT replica of any of Nana Sadie Rose's bags, as each one is original in some respect).

Since that time, I've had enough customers fall in love with the Mera to determine it is my best selling bag, but I didn't stop there, of course. As customers asked for various items, and as I expanded my crafting horizons (adding in knitting when I realized I could make those fun-fur scarves that were in fashion back then) the items available at Nana Sadie Rose have skyrocketed. (At least it feels that way)

Now fashion might seem an odd "calling" to have, but hear me out: the bags are practical. In every respect, I try very hard to design with practicality in mind. Pockets, fasteners, and accessories are all incorporated because they serve a purpose, a need.

And then I add fun.

You see I'm a firm believer that life should be fun. When the economy began to tank, I kept right on designing. I've continued to operate my quiet, small corner of the world of fashion, because it's in my home (no overhead) and because I know I provide a quality product. In fact, quality is my first requirement. If I can't make an item that will serve it's purpose and wear reliably (the fabric IS cotton, so it's not going to be immortal, after all) then I look elsewhere. It's why I try very hard not to use materials that I deem sub-standard. But once I find the good ones, then I add in whatever interest my customer has. It's why the cat show circuit loves my bags, as I'll go to great lengths to find interesting and novel cat fabrics to satisfy their interest.

And knitters know they can count on fabrics that reflect our mutual love of knitting, as well as accessory items that protect their serious investment in their supplies - I don't use velcro in my knitting related items, for example, because it snags yarn badly, and I cushion all the needle cases to protect bamboo, fine steel, and wooden needle tips. So many needles available today are exquisite and quite pricey!

So my commitment to quality, my recognition of my customers need to protect their investment in the tools of their craft, and my insistence in having fun with the fabrics all make Nana Sadie Rose a labor of love, and a true "calling," in my mind. I think most of my customers feel that they've spent money wisely when they've purchased any of my items.

I'm a very grateful Nana!

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